Dear Kenan Thompson:
I don’t hate you, but know that if I could order a bolt of lightning, I’d probably have it delivered about two feet from you. I don’t want to strike you down with great vengeance, but I wouldn’t mind spooking the senselessness out of you. If not for me, for the Black women who deserved better than to see yet another high profile Black man throw them under the bus.
I read your TVGuide.com interview and I can’t help but sit here and think that the universe owes Kel Mitchell an apology.
When asked about Saturday Night Live’s longstanding problem with diversity— specifically with casting women of color—you faulted those who suffer from the disease rather than the cancer behind it. On the lack of Black female comedians, you explained, "It's just a tough part of the business. Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready."
Your tongue must’ve smelled like the bottom of your shoe after spewing this nonsense that helped spare a show runner from legitimate criticism.
This frame of thinking is problematic for a multitude of reasons. For one thing, it’s rooted in the premise that SNL pulls most of its cast members from the comedy scene. Lorne Michaels often selects people from the worlds of improv and sketch: Second City, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, etc. There are Black women around; they’re just not being selected for the show. The same can be said of Black female comedians.
What you’re doing here, Good Burger, is echoing the same kind of rhetoric White men have employed for eons now to exclude anyone who isn’t one of them from positions of power—or even merely a seat at the table. How soon some of us forget.
For Black women to see this once again repeated from someone who looks like their son, their cousin, their father, or in your case, the ex that treated them badly…it’s hurtful.
This isn’t about Black women being prepared; it’s about a White man’s perspective and that fueling his lack of drive to diversify. Maybe Michaels feels that SNL conveys a certain point of view with its comedy and believes not many Black women are equipped to present it. He has every right to hold onto such a foolhardy belief, but it’s not a Black woman’s fault that he has it.
There have only been four Black female cast members on SNL: Yvonne Hudson, Danitra Vance, Ellen Cleghorne, and Maya Rudolph. Only Minnie Riperton’s baby and Cleghorne have lasted a season—with the former the sole one to truly get a chance to make a mark on the show.
For Vance, who died at the age of 35 and was also the first Black gay female cast member, much of the blame for her short stint on the show was rooted in her resentment towards routinely being cast as a maid or prostitute on the show. So even when a Black woman has been “ready,” the show and its mostly White writing staff wasn’t ready for her.
As angry as that had to have made her, she was familiar with this sort of ignorance. She was a classically-trained actress, but at one point in her career, had to go back home to Gary, Indiana to teach after being told, “Sorry. Blacks don’t do Shakespeare.” Her short life was marred with being bound by the limitations people had for her.
It’s a shame that nearly 20 years after her death, the same can be said of other Black women with similar talents.
Now, we do live in an age where our First Lady is Black and some of her key pop cultural figures are Black women. A Black woman could stand to be on SNL to help include them in the conversation, but well, you know.
However, when asked what the show could do to confront potential Black female characters or celebrities to spoof, you said, "I don't know. We just haven't done them. That's what I'm saying. Maybe [Jay Pharaoh] will do it or something, but even he doesn't really want to do it."
Maybe because that Black man in drag trope is tired. Word to Dave Chappelle.
Speaking of that other Black on the show, he recently offered a different stance on the lack of Black women around the iconic NBC set. Pharaoh told theGrio: “They need to pay attention. Her name is Darmirra Brunson…Why do I think she should be on the show? Because she’s [Black] first of all, and she’s really talented. She’s amazing. She needs to be on SNL. I said it. And I believe they need to follow up with it like they said they were going to do last year.”
If Lorne Michaels truly wanted a Black woman on the show and had trouble finding where to look, he could’ve asked one of the Black people he already employs. But he didn’t, and evidently, hasn’t asked that much since 1975.
I understand you want to keep your check, Keenan, but cut the crap.
Michael Arceneaux is the author of the “The Weekly Read,” where tough love is served with just a touch of shade. Tweet him at @youngsinick.
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